What used to be a one-dimensional process for a marketer 20 years ago, buying ads on a small number of major networks to reach a national audience, has turned into a multi-faceted challenge today. In this new era of television, finding relevant TV audiences comes down to how viewers behave, the content they’re watching, and the devices they’re watching it on.
The opportunity couldn’t be greater. There’s a chance to create deeper, more meaningful TV campaigns than ever before, but rapid changes in viewership, with consumers accessing content across platforms, devices and services, have pushed marketers to rethink how they’re reaching audiences. Silos around content and data create fragmentation challenges for the entire TV industry.
Gated content and data, more devices and fragmentation
We’ve seen an explosion of activity as old and new TV come together. Business models have emerged that gate content to ensure that consumers spend most of their time watching video within a provider’s platform, the content garden.
The fusing of digital and TV results in yet another business model—the data garden. In this model, a provider offers different services tied together through an anonymous ID, and that ID is activated to create more personalized recommendations and enable targeted advertising across such services. Amazon is a great example of a data garden—their Prime ID ties together Whole Food shopping data, Fire TV viewing, online shopping and voice services. With its recent acquisition of Sizmek’s ad serving and dynamic creative business, Amazon has the tools for advertisers and agencies to extend their data garden to the internet at large.
For consumers, the effect is the unbundling or disaggregation of content and services. These provide more options, but also more complexity for advertisers reaching consumers across experiences. Today a consumer might watch sports and news on live television, dramas on subscription VOD, and comedies through OTT. The implication of all this for marketers is that there are three key variables that must be accounted for when building a plan: content, data, and viewing platform.
Data-driven TV is supposed to address these challenges, but the reality is that today, there is a gap between what is needed versus what is available in the ecosystem.
Media companies have tried to address these issues by building higher content and data silos to control more variables and therefore present a more unified, standard way for advertisers to reach their audiences. The challenge is one TV partner might have strength in data and its platform but lacks content and means of distribution. Another might have a plethora of content but lacks a cohesive way for marketers to execute a campaign across the TV formats needed for national reach. With consumers viewing across multiple silos, this is not a viable long-term solution because no one garden will ever have critical mass.
The overall impact of this fragmentation is horizontal and spans the entire ecosystem, from reducing ad loads to setting standards for exchanging data.
The new TV environment
TV has evolved into a multifaceted tool that can be used to connect with consumers throughout their journey to purchase. New formats like OTT can add the dimension and depth needed to forge a strong brand-consumer relationship.
But if the TV industry, including service providers, content publishers and technology platforms, doesn’t work together to create simplicity around the variables of content, data and device, we will not realize the promise of data-driven advertising for marketers or seamless viewing experiences for consumers. Instead, we will force our constituents to cobble together an uneven experience created by disparate business rules.
The industry has taken first steps, including Xandr’s announcement of Community; Comcast, Charter and Cox’s support of NCC’s new model; and Project OAR. But we can’t let well-intentioned initiatives like these become new silos in their own right.
The new TV ecosystem will be about exchanging data and aligning with consumer choice. Success in finding audiences will have nothing to do with individual value propositions of walled gardens or working with one provider for everything—it’ll be about reaching audiences across screens, devices, formats and services.